In my Grandmother's Kitchen

My daughter was sitting  in our kitchen the other day when she suddenly broke into song.

"Deep, deep as the deepest sea is my Saviour's love" she sang, in that sweet-yet-wavering voice of a young child. 

It instantly transported me back over fifteen years, as it was often sung by my grandmother. Her voice wavered too, though no longer with youth but the frailness of old age. I had the privilege of living with my grandparents as a university student (I will have to tell you more about my grandfather another day). Sometimes, lying in bed at night, I would listen to the homely sounds of my grandmother working in her kitchen. Then, as the evening grew late, she would often finish the day at her electric organ. Her soul would open up in song. Remembering it now, it's like the songs lifted her until she soared, age no longer a burden.

Back here in my kitchen, the remainder of this song flowed out, spanning the intervening years.

"I though so unworthy, 
Still am a child of his care
For his word teaches me
That his love reaches me

She loved that song.

Most of my memories of her were made in her kitchen. The kitchen was at the centre of their house and home, and feeding and caring for people was at the core of her life. Almost invariably, that's where we would farewell each other at the start of the day, and greet each other at the end. And her face would light up on my return, as if weeks or months had passed instead of only a few hours. I know she valued people. She valued me.

As we talked, my grandmother would playfully chide me - we were a different generation after all. I can still hear her voice as she responded to accounts of my days. "Oh, Timothy! You couldn't have!" she would exclaim, with a look of mock disbelief.  "Oh, Timothy, you didn't, did you?", she would say, while sporting an all-of-face grin. At other times, she would expound, at length, on the evils of rock music, or abstract art. We didn't agree on everything, but I know that she loved me through and through.

One of my earliest memories of being at my grandparent's house is of their lolly jar. It was placed high up in the kitchen, but beside a step-ladder. My sister and I would wait until no one was in sight, and then quickly make our raids. But everything was as it was intended, and I remember my grandmother being very apologetic if it was ever out of stock. 

I also remember my grandparents making all their own jam. I  come from a long line of jam makers, each generation handing down the art to the next.  Grandparents, parents, then me. Commandered to 'help pick', we would pile into my grandfather's mustard-yellow station wagon and drive out west to the strawberry fields. Hours later, baskets and bellies brimming with fruit we would drive home, joking about how "pick your own" growers should weigh people on arrival and departure as well. Sitting on a stool at the kitchen bench, Grandpa would prepare the strawberries for jamming, and Grandma would take charge of the stove. The heat from the jam would warm the kitchen, the smell of hot berries wafting through the house.  Now, many years later, jam making for me isn't simply about home made spreads. More importantly its about preserving the memories, and my family's way of life.

My grandmother was extraordinary.

The embrace of her hugs, the size of them seemingly at odds with her  diminutive frame.

The skin of her hands, wrinkled yet soft. Kind.

Her saintly patience and grace. Her mercy.

Her mischievous streak, that in the last few months of her life, only developed more.

Her joyful spirit

And that radiant look on her face when you greeted her. Perhaps she greeted people as Jesus would - with the joy of seeing a long lost child, even if you had just seen her at breakfast.

I didn't know it then, but perhaps my grandmother's also gave me glimpses of what heaven is like. At the centre of her life, always close. A place of warmth and complete acceptance. Deep joy. The surety of knowing exactly who she was.

Till we meet again Grandma - I had better sign off to let the tears flow


Rose Mary Gordon Martin
Wedding Day 1945